London’s newest hotelier Mark Fuller is showing commendable bravado for someone about to open a luxury hotel during a global recession.
“F*** the recession, let’s get on with it,” he says, while sitting on the roof terrace of the Sanctum Soho, a 30-room establishment dubbed the rock’n’roll hotel, as much for its “anything goes” service philosophy as the pedigree of its owners, which include the co-managers of heavy metal band Iron Maiden. “We do not recognize there is a credit crunch because we believe you should battle through it,” Fuller says, adding “If you get panicky and scary about things like this you’re no man at all.” Besides, he admits, three years ago when he started working on the concept of an ‘alluring haven of hedonism’ (as the hotel is described on its Web site), the credit crunch didn’t exist. And by the time it hit, it was too late to pull out. “We wouldn’t do anyway,” Fuller insists, adding “fortune favors the brave, as they say.” See images of the rock star hotel » The former band manager turned entrepreneur, is looking quite the rock star tonight, decked head-to-toe in black while a shiny silver skull stares ominously from his belt buckle. Downstairs, staff are frantically preparing for a launch party that promises to be heavy on champagne, cocktails and celebrities. It’s almost like the crunch doesn’t exist. This is Fuller’s world and he’s hoping plenty of people will want to join it. “In every downturn in the economic climate I think people look for some affordable glamour and escape,” he says.
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Fuller also owns and runs the Embassy Hotel, an exclusive nightclub in the upmarket London suburb of Mayfair which he plans to franchise in Dubai, Istanbul and Abu Dhabi. The partners in his new hotel venture ooze rock credential: Iron Maiden co-managers Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor. While Taylor has experience running a restaurant and hotel, “The Inn on the Green,” Smallwood’s experience in the hotel industry is based on 30 years on the road with Iron Maiden. Last year he stayed in 80 hotels in 40 countries and one of his biggest gripes is returning to his hotel after a gig and finding the bar is closed. “You want good service, and you want the bars open, and you want good food available,” he says from the roof terrace equipped with a bar and Jacuzzi he’s taken to calling “my lounge.” Smallwood expects to stay in the hotel once a week and says it will become a London bolt-hole for the band. While non-music types and the tone-deaf are welcome to stay in the hotel, over-enthusiastic groupies are not. “If you’re on the road for three months, you can never escape,” Smallwood says. “The fans, some of them, think they have a God-given right, just because they’re staying in the same hotel, to put a camera in your face over your cornflakes.” “The rule here is no autographs and no photographs,” he says firmly. “Say Paul Weller is sitting in the corner having a beer and you go and ask for an autograph or photograph, you will not stay here again.” Along with privacy and a beer at all hours, guests have access to an on-call guitar doctor, a necessity, apparently, if you break a string while strumming in your room. Guests who have inadvertently left their guitar at home can hire one from reception. The rock star concept extends to the room decor. The silver wallpaper and mirrored columns may appear garish in daylight, but at 3am one suspects they add a touch of glamour. Free standing baths are a bold leap from the bed and the mini bar is well-stocked with champagne. Rod Smallwood is confident the concept will work. “Recession or no recession, we’re talking about 30 rooms in a huge major city. If we can’t sell 30 rooms in the depths of recession it means we’re useless, and we know we’re not.” Mark Fuller says he’s selling more than a hotel room; in times of economic crisis the Sanctum Soho offers the chance to forget the mortgage and live like a rock star, if only for a day. “You can sit in the restaurant and have a hamburger for seven pounds ($10),” he says. “The drinks are cheaper than most hotels, and probably cheaper than most nightclubs. The room accommodation runs everywhere from £125 ($255) straight up to £450 ($650). Take your pick. Cut your coat.” I mishear him. “Cut your coke” I ask. “No, you can’t do that!” he exclaims.
“Musicians are not like that anymore,” Fuller says. “The music industry is such now is that people release CDs to support tours not the other way around, so this is a professional state. “I just don’t want to be the hotel at the end of the tour, then I’m in danger,” he laughs.